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The philosopher Wilhelm von Humboldt (1767–1836) used what originally was the pietistic and theological term Bildung to refer to the humanistic ideal of self-cultivation and self-transformation. It is likely that he borrowed the term Bildung from the biologist Johann Friedrich Blumenbach (1752–1840), who claimed that all organisms possess a so-called Bildungstrieb (“drive of development”). Bildungstrieb refers to a force inherent in organisms—including humans—that has an implicit goal toward self-realization and self-perfection (Vervollkommnung). Such a biological view was most probably much more influential on Humboldt’s thinking than the mystic or pietistic origins of the term. This entry reviews the evolution of this educationally important concept, from its initial elaboration in the era of the Enlightenment through successive phases of its development to its recent encounter with ...

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